Child psychology: Emotional development

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By Kairen CullenCPsychol AFBPsS, Independent Chartered Psychologist and journalist

Discover ways to support and promote emotional wellbeing in your class

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Most people would agree that an individual’s emotional development is a fundamentally important, life-long task. By the end of Key Stage 2, children should have some understanding of the importance of managing their own and others’ emotions constructively. Psychology can offer many insights into emotional development, which teachers – who are key people in this process – can use.

Emotional wellbeing

Historically, most psychological studies of children’s emotional development have tended to focus upon the problematic. However, in recent years, psychologists such as Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) and Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology movement, have helped to raise awareness of the crucial role of emotional wellbeing in people’s lives, starting from childhood.

Defining good emotional health and ‘normal’ emotional development is difficult because there is an infinite scope for individual variation. Broadly speaking, however, emotionally-healthy individuals experience a range of emotions, are able to deal with intense feelings and react in an appropriate way. They can also appreciate and respond to others’ feelings sensitively.

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